City on a Hill is an American crime drama series created by Chuck MacLean, based on an original idea by Ben Affleck and MacLean. The series stars Kevin Bacon, Aldis Hodge, Amanda Clayton, Cathy Moriarty, Kevin Dunn, and Jill Hennessy. If follows the story of Assistant District Attorney Decourcy Ward who comes from Brooklyn and forms an unlikely alliance with a corrupt yet venerated FBI veteran, Jackie Rohr. Together, they take on a family of armored car robbers in a case that grows to involve, and ultimately subvert, the entire criminal justice system of Boston.
What We Thought:
Overall I liked City on a Hill: Season One. I knew people who had watched it when it aired, but I missed it. It has some issues which I’ll get to, but if you are looking for a decent crime drama about thieves, corruption and more, this will fill that void for you.
Kevin Bacon plays a dirty FBI agent in 1990’s Boston. Aldis Hodge plays an up and coming assistant DA who wants to make a name for himself. Jonathan Tucker plays a Townie who leads a crew of thieves that in the first episode robs a Brinks truck killing its three guards. The first season deals with the aftermath of the robbery/murders with Bacon using informants and dirty ways of getting information and pulling Hodge into a group trying to link everything together.
Now if you noticed I used the term Townie. If you don’t know that word, it means a resident of Charlestown, Massachusetts. I’m a born and raised Masshole so I know Townies and the like. The era this show takes place in is also my favorite years so basically I 100% know this series on a personal level. Tucker himself is a fellow Masshole and Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (arguably the two biggest Massachusetts celebs) are executive producers of the show. Basically this show should be a slam dunk for me since I’m from here, know the area, know what they are talking about, love the wardrobe, music and all the references the show makes about the 1990’s. It’s because of all that that I have issues others might not have or might miss.
After the pilot episode the show shot in New York. They shot some stuff here, exteriors and there’s a scene with Bacon and his wife walking through Boston Common, but a lot of the generic stuff was shot outside of Mass. As a native, you can tell. There are streets or buildings that are noticeably not Boston especially for the time period. For a show so specific about an area, not filming it there seems wrong. Yes I know a lot of films/shows shoot in different locations, but if you are making a show specifically about The Code of Silence, corruption in Boston politics, racism in Boston and the like, it should shoot in Boston. Viewers outside of Massachusetts/New England might not notice anything I’m pointing out so these are just issues I have.
It’s also very similar to another Affleck production, The Town. That takes place in the 2000’s, but that’s also about a crew of robbers from Charlestown and the FBI hunting them down. That’s the problem with a lot of these Boston crime dramas, they are all pretty similar at this point. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad, but it makes them all pretty familiar. You can go back to the 1970’s with movies likes The Brink’s Job or The Friends of Eddie Coyle and you can see crews from Boston doing heists.
City on a Hill: Season One is pretty good and I binged it over 3 days. It’s 10 episodes long with each being close to an hour long. Jonathan Tucker is the standout to me. I think he’s an underrated actor and brings a lot more to his character than others. Some of the characters are pretty stereotypical with corruption, drugs, booze and womanizing expected from them, but Tucker’s character has more depth to him. I’m curious to see where Season 2 takes the story and how dirty Hodge’s character ends up as well.